Forget me not…Government Responsiveness in Civic Technology
By Prof Caroline Khene
When implementing civic technology, it has often been the case that citizens are the main focus when measuring the success and relevance of these initiatives.
However, like any citizen engagement initiative, Government responsiveness is fundamental to the operation of any tool designed to support the two-way relationship and communication between local government and citizens.
The MobiSAM baseline study encompassed a range of inquiries to the nature of communication between certain crucial civic and state actors.
As such, a baseline study was conducted within the Municipality as an organisation with the aim of eliciting the existing communication ecologies at the Makana Municipality – ways of communicating within departments, between departments, and with the general public.
“What we as MobiSAM have been realising and which we keep reminding each other is that this project is a journey of mutual discovery and realisation for the team, as well as, the Municipality itself.”
By uncovering and tracking the networks which comprise these ecologies the MobiSAM team have been able to not only understand the current level of communication and knowledge management in the Municipality as an organisation, but also the opportunities to leverage off in attempting to integrate the MobiSAM system within municipal processes.
Acting from the preliminary intelligence gathered through the baseline study within the Municipality, MobiSAM has been able to plan subsequent workshops to demonstrate the functions of the system, with the aim of eliciting further requirements for improving the daily functioning of the system on the Municipal end of the communications network.
Furthermore, MobiSAM will conduct a Strategy Formulation workshop with key staff in the municipality, to strategize how MobiSAM could best fit within existing municipal processes. Taking this approach and working closely with municipal representatives has allowed the team to gain deeper understanding of current and future challenges relating to the implementation of the MobiSAM communication system.
Current examples of improved communication through the use of existing communication networks is evident in the use of Facebook which has been instrumental in supporting communication between the municipality and citizens.
Despite its initial and ongoing success, the MobiSAM Facebook page has been facing some challenges: with increasing requests and engagement comes an overwhelming demand on very limited resources available at the municipality in the short-term.
What we as MobiSAM have been realising and which we keep reminding each other is that this project is a journey of mutual discovery and realisation for the team, as well as, the Municipality itself.
As such there is the ongoing agreement that over time, processes of change management, knowledge management, and negotiated practice, will become instrumental in guiding the adjustments that might have to be made in order to ensure optimal results.
This approach is typical of any information system implemented in an organisation, nonetheless, local government is contextually unique, with many lessons to learn from the reality of implementing digital citizen engagement tools in such environments in South Africa.